June 5, 2022
Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID
Just before today’s Gospel reading, Jesus had been teaching His disciples not to fear the world, nor the trouble, nor hardships that would come by following Him. As we had heard in the last several weeks, Jesus was preparing His disciples for His Ascension, and the reassurance that He is not abandoning His people, and that God has not stopped acting in the world. Rather, Jesus tells them that He ascends to prepare a place for those who love Him, that no one can enter into the kingdom of God except through faith in the Son whom the Father has sent, and that the Holy Spirit would be sent to guide and direct God’s people in the way of truth.
Now, today, we’ve come to Pentecost, where the promise of God sending His Spirit in the name of the resurrected Son to teach and guide disciples of Jesus is fulfilled. Tongues of fire upon their heads and tongues of boldness in their mouths to speak of the mighty works of God in Christ.
Today, three young men in our congregation are confirmed, which is to say, they bear witness to their receiving of the Holy Spirit at their baptisms, the same Spirit who loosens their tongues to confess the Christian faith they have held and believed since they were infants. Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My Commandments.” So, you were taught the Ten Commandments and their meanings. Jesus said, “Whoever confesses Me before men, I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.” So you were taught the Apostles’ Creed, the Christian’s baptismal confession of faith and it’s meaning. Jesus invites His people to pray to God the Father in the name of the Son by the power of the Holy Spirit, and so you were taught the Lord’s Prayer and its meaning. Jesus says, “If anyone love Me, He will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make Our home with him.” And so you were taught the love of God shown throughout the Old and New Testaments in His mercy and grace, and most clearly through sending His Son Jesus to die for you.
And so they will stand up in front of us this morning, confessing their belief in Jesus, and make solemn promises of their intention to hear the Word of God and receive the Lord’s Supper faithfully; to live according to the word of God, and in faith, word and deed, to remain true God, even to death; to continue steadfast in this confession and Church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it.
This is what some of them said about this…
This all sounds good and well and commendable, yet Jesus warns that this sinful world is against those who are in Christ just as was against Him, that the spiritual battle for soul does not get easier, but even harder. These young men already live in a world and culture that is foreign to some of you here today, face pressures of this age that you all would not even have imagined when you were their age. You will increasingly find yourselves out of step with the values and norms and lifestyles of those around you. The fallen world in which you live and continue to grow will be hostile to your faith and your life as a Christian. It will tempt and tug, push and pull off the path of Christ.
They need help, as we all do. They will answer these questions of their intention by saying, ‘I do, by the grace of God.” And isn’t that the truth! It is only and always by the grace of God, not by our own works or efforts. Too many people have stood up in too many churches declaring these same promises only to fall away from the Christian faith, to fall prey to the world’s sinful idea and the misguided notion of too many Lutheran churches that confirmation is the end, or the goal, and that one is now free to decide for themselves if they want to go to church, what parts of God’s Word they want to throw out or simply ignore! What God protect us from these temptations, and forgive us for promising one thing on Confirmation Sunday only to do to the opposite the very next Sunday. One of these young men says this…
Zion Lutheran Church, as the family of God in this place, it is your responsibility to one another to encourage and build up the faith of one another in all love and unity of belief. Do not think or act like you can do this on your own, or be a Christian apart from the family of God, but listen to the Holy Spirit who teaches you all things and brings to your remembrance all that Jesus has taught.
And when you find yourselves lacking even in this, remember the Holy Spirit has been given to you for this purpose – to call, gather, enlighten, and sanctify the whole Christian Church on earth and keep it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian Church He daily and richly forgives the sins of all believes, taking what the Father has given to the Son and delivering it to you. Jesus gives you peace, not as the world gives, but only as God Himself can. This is the peace of God’s presence, of His love and forgiveness, the peace of God that passes all understanding, the peace of God delivered in His means of grace. In your baptism, God has granted you His peace by reconciling you to Himself. In the absolution, God has granted you His peace by forgiving your sins, by restoring the broken relationship between God and man. Now, for the first time for these three young men, and one more time among many for most of you, God grants His peace in the body and blood of Christ in the Sacrament of the Altar. This is the reason why at the end of the consecration, the pastor holds up the body and blood of Christ before you and says, “The peace of the Lord be with you always.”
This work of God in His Word and Sacraments is much more important today than any confirmation vows and promises. It is the promise of God for you. By faith, hold tight to Christ, to His Word and promises. He will never leave you nor forsake you.
Rise, let us go from here. Jesus leads His people out into the world.